Weary foreigners ramp up mass exodus from Lebanon

NICOSIA, July 21, 2006 (AFP) – Thousands of foreigners huddled in makeshift transit centres Friday, weary but relieved, as governments around the world ramped up a mass evacuation from the raging conflict in Lebanon.

Warships, cruisers and ferries criss-crossed the eastern Mediterranean from ports in Lebanon toward Cyprus and Turkey, packed with refugees, while planes brought more back to their homelands.

Convoys of buses meanwhile headed toward Syria, or from the war-torn south toward the north which has been less badly hit by Israel’s offensive against the Shiite Hezbollah movement, now in its 10th day.

“You see these situations on TV and feel sorry for the people. Now we are the ones that feel like refugees,” said mother-of-two Brenda Fawaz, 41, at a transit camp in Nicosia set up to handle an estimated 6,000 American nationals expected in the coming days.

“My children were scared — we stayed inside most of the time. In America you don’t see things like that,” added Fawaz, from Tampa, Florida.

A UN-chartered cruise ship docked in Larnaca, Cyprus, early Friday carrying 900 UN staff, dependants and other evacuees from 46 different countries.

Among those on board are: 167 Lebanese, 1